GRAYSLAKE – Prairie Ridge and Crystal Lake Central showed off the strength of the Fox Valley Conference on Monday, both earning straight-set victories in their respective Class 4A Grayslake Central Sectional semifinal volleyball matches.
The top-seeded Wolves handed No. 4-seeded Gurnee Warren a 25-15, 25-14 loss in the first semifinal, and No. 2-seeded Central made quick work of No. 3-seeded Stevenson, 25-13, 25-10.
Prairie Ridge (27-10) and Central (31-5) will meet for the third time this season at 6 p.m. Wednesday for the championship. The winner advances to Friday's Warren Supersectional.
The FVC rivals also met in last year’s 4A Wauconda Sectional final, with the Tigers winning, 22-25, 25-22, 27-25, on their way to their first state tournament appearance since 2009. Last year’s championship was the first for Central in 4A. Prairie Ridge last won a sectional in 2012.
“It was a great game last year, but it was heartbreaking,” said Wolves senior Jayden Otto, who had 24 assists, two kills and one ace against Warren. “We are definitely out for revenge.
“I’m just ready to win one. I’ll do whatever it takes.”
Prairie Ridge beat Central in both regular-season meetings this season, each in three sets.
Tigers coach Lisa Brunstrum expects another close matchup against the FVC champions.
“We always look forward to playing a conference rival, especially when it’s a team only five minutes down the road,” Brunstrum said. “Our conference is tough, night in and night out. It is going come down to mental toughness for us. Prairie Ridge is a really tough team. They don't make a lot of errors."
Prairie Ridge trailed only once against Warren, at 5-4 in the second set, but surged ahead with a 9-2 run to pull away from Blue Devils (27-7) for good.
Sammi Lockwood led the Wolves with nine kills, Maddie McGuire and Hannah Baudin (two aces) had six kills apiece, and Trinity Sheridan had five. Lockwood and McGuire, who swung a combined 21 times, finished with no hitting errors.
Olivia Jost led Prairie Ridge defensively with 10 digs and recorded one of five team aces in the win.
“We had a lot of quick plays, and we were talking really loud,” said Lockwood, a Notre Dame commit. “I feel like they didn’t know where we were going to set the ball or where we were going to go.”
Central looked relaxed from the start in its match against Stevenson (26-12) and trailed only twice, dropping the opening point of both sets.
Maddy McCormick collected six kills, five digs and three aces for Central, Madde Blake had eight kills, 13 digs and an ace, and Camryn Hausler had eight kills, 12 assists and three blocks.
“This win was really big,” McCormick said. “Especially after going to state last year, we’ve all wanted to go back so much. It’s just another step. We were just being real scrappy on defense."
Grace Levin recorded a team-high 13 assists for Central, Karina Simatos tallied eight digs, and Madeline Timmerman had three kills and five blocks in the sweep. The Tigers never have won back-to-back sectional titles, according to IHSA.org.
Levin said every postseason win carries a lot of personal meaning to her.
“This means everything to me because my mom played at Central, and it’s been my goal forever to be in her spot,” Levin said. “It’s been my dream to get here and just keep pushing.”
"We just have to play together and trust each other."
STAR OF THE MATCH
Crystal Lake Central, so., OH
McCormick had a strong showing with six kills, five digs and three aces in a 25-13, 25-10 sweep over Stevenson.
3: With both teams winning, Prairie Ridge and Central will meet for the third time this year. The Wolves won the first two meetings in three sets.
AND ANOTHER THING …
Central beat Prairie Ridge, 22-25, 25-22, 27-25, in a sectional final last year on its way to state. The Wolves last won a sectional championship in 2012.